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Putting the network first

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Digital transformation is the process of making use of new technologies, across all areas of an organisation, to optimise operations and drive growth by delivering enhanced value to customers.

Best thought of as a continual adaptation to a constantly changing environment, it’s a journey that strives towards optimisation across processes, divisions and the business ecosystem in general.

Enterprises today are once again putting this approach at the centre of their organisational agendas. Fast-evolving customer expectations, escalating market pressures and overall organisational goals have fuelled digital transformation in every industry. It is estimated that by 2025, global spending for transformational efforts will reach $2.8 trillion.

If this process is to be successful, it is important that networks and networking sit at its very heart. Why is this? Well, digital transformation helps to forge links between organisations, their technology and customers. These new systems will, in turn, allow businesses to build a bridge to the future by establishing new networks and ecosystems that will result in new business models to achieve future growth. This new digital world will revolve around data, actionable intelligence and, most importantly, connectivity.

A key connection

Network connectivity is critical throughout digital transformation. Any type of network disruption will render the applications that rely on transformation useless, affecting the organisation and its customers.

During a digital transformation roll out, it’s critical to have always-on network access. The continuous addition of new applications places a strain on the network, increasing the likelihood of an outage. How to access critical applications when a disruption occurs should be one of the main considerations during the planning phase of digital transformation and it is certainly one of the major reasons why the network needs to be core to this planning.

When it comes to network outages, it’s never a matter of if it will occur, it’s more a matter of when and how long it’ll take to recover. A focus on network resilience backed up by a NetOps approach founded on network automation and technology that delivers Smart Out-of-Band and Failover to Cellular capability offers a way forward here.

This combination of technology and processes helps to ensure that organisations have the connectivity needed throughout their digital transformation journey. By providing access to network devices through an independent management plan, the IT team always has a full view of the network remotely, and will always be able to access infrastructure at every site.

Mitigating the security threat

A focus on networking throughout the digital transformation process will also help organisations enhance their security. Network engineers and CIOs agree that cybersecurity issues represent the biggest risk for organisations that fail to put networks at the heart of digital transformation plans. According to research commissioned by Opengear, 53% of network engineers and 52% of CIOs polled across the US, UK, France, Germany and Australia rank cybersecurity among the list of their biggest risks.

The concerns are fueled by an escalating number of cyberattacks. In fact, 61% of CIOs report an increase in cybersecurity attacks/breaches from 2020-21 compared to the preceding two years. For the digital transformation of networking, 70% of network engineers say security is the most important focus area, and 31% say network security is their biggest networking priority.

CIOs also understand the importance of the issues. More than half (51%) of network engineers say their CIOs have consulted them on investments to deliver digital transformation plans, the highest priority in the survey. What’s more, 41% of CIOs rank cybersecurity among their organisation’s most important investment priorities over the next year, with 35% stating it is among the biggest over the next five years. In both cases, cybersecurity ranks higher than any other factor.

Through the pandemic, we have seen the importance of cybersecurity skyrocket for businesses as employees switch to working remotely and cyber-criminals ramp up their activity. Forward-thinking businesses understand these challenges and the importance of investing more in security and ensuring it is woven more closely into the fabric of their networks and digital transformation efforts.

Coming together to deliver networking transformation

The above points help to clearly illustrate the reasons why networks and networking are critical to any digital transformation – and also help explain how they can help facilitate that transformation for any organisation today.

But there are nevertheless a host of potential pitfalls along the way. To ensure that they embed networks into their process of digitalisation, it is important that organisations make certain that network engineers have a say in how transformation is carried out. That’s never easy.

From the IT aspect, getting CIOs, C-suite decision-makers and network engineers to engage closely is not always simple because the groups face a wide range of differing pain points. CIOs are responsible for creating the overarching vision that drives transformation projects and engineers are tasked with identifying how to successfully execute them. These differing priorities have created significant disconnects which must be addressed to identify any gaps, so that goals on their transformation roadmap can be reached.

Collaboration between the two groups has sometimes been challenging. In the Opengear survey, just 12% of network engineers stated having a significant amount of involvement in influencing the strategic focus of their organisation’s digital transformation. This highlights an opportunity for CIOs to involve network engineers more closely in strategic decision-making. As the network team oversees the entire network, the critical foundation for every digital transformation project, having their input has become increasingly important to CIOs. The two groups need to be collaborating more closely together.

That’s starting to happen now, with over three-quarters of CIOs (78%) saying they have made more use of networking and IT teams for higher value tasks over the past two years.

How engineers are driving network transformation forward

Engineers are ‘hands on’ with the network, managing them every day. They understand the importance of driving network automation, leveraging tools like NetOps, Ansible and Python, and how even with modern network advancements, challenges remain in these areas.

Leveraging the principles of NetOps, they will be able to provision new systems and infrastructure remotely, monitor and manage the smooth operation of the solution from afar and be able to remediate any problems when they do occur with a virtual hands solution.

This is essentially a capability of network engineers – and that is why it is so important that CIOs bring them into the fold and tap into their expertise to ensure digital transformation is networking-driven and there is focus on reducing downtime and bringing costs under control. Get all that right and they will see a successful business transformation, powered by a more secure and resilient network in place, for today and long into the future.

Picture of Alan Stewart-Brown
Alan Stewart-Brown
VP EMEA at Opengear

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